Lakers' LeBron James Says Kyle Kuzma Plays His Role 'To a High Level'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forwards Kyle Kuzma (0) and LeBron James (23) run up the court in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Brandon Dill/Associated Press

LeBron James praised Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kyle Kuzma after the fourth-year forward scored a team-high 24 points off the bench in Friday night's 105-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center.

"It's all about growth, and the game has just slowed down every year for him," James told reporters. "He knows his role with this team, and he does it to a high level, and tonight was another example of that."

Kuzma added 13 rebounds to record his 10th double-double of the 2020-21 NBA season.

The 25-year-old Michigan native was named an NBA All-Rookie first-team selection after the 2017-18 campaign and averaged a career-best 18.7 points the following season as the Lakers' second-leading scorer during the first year of the LeBron era in L.A.

His role was reduced significantly last season as the Lakers acquired Anthony Davis to gear up for a championship run that was ultimately successful.

Amid the title celebration, questions were raised about whether Kuzma could become an effective complementary player without a high number of offensive touches.

The University of Utah product has started to provide an answer with a series of strong outings in recent weeks, including tallying 25 points and 13 boards against the Sacramento Kings the previous game.

He discussed trying to find his niche in a postgame interview on Spectrum SportsNet:

Spectrum SportsNet @SpectrumSN

"I'm just trying to be a beast defensively and a beast on the boards and offensively it's going to take care of it." @kylekuzma talks post-game with @LakersReporter after going for 24 points with 13 rebounds against Indiana. https://t.co/3c4Mdd637g

So while he's averaging career-low totals in points (11.8) and shot attempts (10.4), he's on pace for his best three-point shooting percentage (37.0) and rebounding average (6.8).

That's the sign of growth James referenced—finding a way to make an impact by filling a role. In Kuzma's case, it's knocking down outside shots at a high rate and cleaning up the glass, and his contributions have been even more important with Davis sidelined by injuries.

He'll look to keep his recent hot streak going Monday when the Lakers visit the Golden State Warriors.